Residents of a southern Georgia town were shocked Thursday to discover a 6-foot alligator lying in the middle of the road. Fear quickly turned to confusion, however, as the alligator was dead, a fresh gunshot wound in the side of its head.
The incident took place in Coffee County, near Douglas, Georgia. After spotting the deceased reptile, residents contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who arrived to Hebron Church Road shortly thereafter.
Upon their arrival, wildlife officials determined that the alligator wasn’t hunted down in the road. Instead, it was likely the victim of a car accident. Someone then took it upon themselves to put the animal out of its misery.
“Based off of the timeline of the calls that we received on it, it appears it was hit by a vehicle. After that, another passing motorists dispatched it and killed it out of mercy,” Game Warden Luke Rabun told Newsweek.
Greg Nelms, Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Georgia DNR, explained that the earliest calls they received suggested that the alligator was still alive. Callers reported, however, that it was clearly suffering and could barely move. By the time officials arrived to assess the gator’s condition, it was dead.
“Alligators are very resilient and can live for hours with very serious wounds,” Nelms said. “It’s possible someone in this area passed it multiple times that day and decided to end its suffering.”
Alligator Killed in Road Donated to Local Family for Food
Though they’re most common in Florida, American alligators inhabit the entirety of the coastal southeast. Their range stretches from western Texas to Florida, then up through North Carolina. A semi-aquatic freshwater species, they prefer swampy areas, rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.
According to Nelms, alligators are extremely common in Coffee County, as it’s largely wetland. “This area of the county has a lot of farm ponds and alligators often leave the natural wetlands and streams to make use of ponds,” he said. “This movement will sometimes require them to cross dirt and even paved roads.”
Because alligators regularly risk crossing the county’s roads, it’s not uncommon for them to become roadkill. Looking at the scene, Nelms guessed that the animal crossed the road at just the wrong time. Because it was just beyond the crest of a hill, the driver likely didn’t see it in time to avoid hitting it.
In most roadkill incidents, officials have no choice but to dispose of the deceased animal. Roadkill too damaged or decomposed can’t be used as food or otherwise. This alligator, however, didn’t go to waste. After retrieving it from the road, officials donated it to a local family.
Despite the gunshot wound, wildlife officials determined there was no need for further investigation. Based on the information they received, they felt confident that whoever shot it was just trying to do the humane thing for a wounded animal.